LAHORE: Under the guidance of Michel van den Heuvel, the Pakistan hockey team’s former coach, the national side won the gold medal at the Asian Games 2010, after 28 years. Before that, the only time Pakistan won a major global title since 1984 was in 1994, when it bagged the World Cup. It is no coincidence that the coach then was also European.
Over the years, rules governing field hockey have changed drastically, making strategy and tactics decisive in winning or losing. European and Australian coaches have transformed strategies and tactics to a near science, effectively making the coach the linchpin of a team. We need such experts until our own trainers come up to that standard.
Mr Heuvel wanted to continue with his coaching assignment with the national team until the Olympics, after which his contract would have expired. But he was unceremoniously dismissed for a minor infringement of his contract. This happened just four months before the Olympics.
The upshot of that dismissal was that Pakistan finished last in the prestigious Azlan Shah hockey tournament and gave a mediocre performance at the Olympics. The actual reason for Mr Heuvel’s removal appears to be political and motivated by considerations other than the team’s best interest. Qasim Zia, who heads the hockey federation and who is considered a henchman of the present government, has hurt the sentiments of countless Pakistani hockey fans who expected the team to at least reach the semi-finals in London. We need to keep our sports federations free of political influence.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2012.
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